October 09, 2017

As a new beekeeper, just starting out with a new hive of bees, it can be challenging to identify what you see in the cells of each comb in the hive. Soon after working in the hive several times you will soon learn the differences between capped and uncapped honey comb, capped worker brood and capped drone comb. You will also recognize heater bee cells, pollen and emerged bee cells and queen cells.


The Cathedral Hive capped brood honey comb

The Cathedral Hive Comb - several types of cells in this comb

In the Brood Nest area of the hive the bees will create a band of honeycomb above the brood cells. These honey stores are a source of food and that band also creates warmth during the winter months. Honeycomb and wax is a heat sink and insulator for the hive.

Top band on the comb: Capped honey cells
- the band of white wax coverings

Middle and Bottom of Comb: Capped worker brood cells - Light yellow capped cells from middle to bottom of comb. The light yellow color indicates that are freshly laid by the queen.

Open Cells: Heater Bee empty cells:these empty cells scattered throughout the brood cells are cells for heater bees to crawl into and warm up the broodnest when needed. These 'heater bees' will crawl into a cell and vibrate their abdomen to create warmth for the brood cells around them. This is one technique of how the bees regulate the needed consistent temperature of 91-96 degrees F (32-35 C )  in the broodnest area of the hive. 

Hive comb with various capped brood capped and uncapped honey
The Golden Mean Hive Comb - again several types of cells in this comb

Just as the above Cathedral Hive comb we again see the band of capped honey above the brood nest cells

Top of comb: Capped honey cells
- the band of white wax coverings

Middle of comb: Uncapped nectar - Open cells in middle (soon to be honey). 

Bottom of Comb: Capped worker brood cells - Light yellow capped cells from middle to bottom of comb. The light yellow color indicates that are freshly laid by the queen.

Honeycomb Newly Capped Honey in cells light yellow in color Newly Capped Honey Comb
With open cells that may be filled with nectar, called uncapped honeycomb

CloseUp of Honeycomb Newly Capped Honey cells

Newly Capped Honey Comb -CloseUp


Capped honey cells are often confused with newly capped worker brood cells (image below). Capped honey cells are slightly indented versus the capped worker brood cells that have a slight protrusion to them.

newly capped honey comb cells

Newly Capped Honey Comb -CloseUp

Capped honey cells are often confused with newly capped worker brood cells (image below). Capped honey cells are slightly indented versus the capped worker brood cells that have a slight protrusion to them.

Honeycomb_Capped_Worker_Brood_Light yellow

Capped Worker Brood Cells

Capped worker brood cells are often confused with capped honey comb cells (image above). Capped worker brood has a slight bump protruding from the cell.

 

Honeycomb_Capped_Worker_Brood_Darker_Older_Cells

Capped Worker Brood Cells -Darker

When the comb has had at least one cycle of brood laid in it and the bees emerged, the comb becomes a little darker than a first year comb (above image) where the capped worker brood is light in color. The comb becomes darker due to the bees coating the cells with their 'shellac' before the queen lays another egg in the cell. The combs become darker and darker. You will want to rotate out (harvest) brood comb after a few years as the comb can build up pesticides and the cells in the comb will also become smaller and smaller and will no longer be good combs for the queen to lay in.

Honeycomb_Capped_Drone_Worker_Brood

Various Cells -Darker Comb


This can be a typical comb you may see in the brood nest area. There are many empty cells where worker bees have emerged. Brood combs normally have a band of honey at the top of the comb. This is honey that can be used to feed the young larvae. This comb also has some capped drone cells on the very left side of the comb.

 Honeycomb_New_Capped_Drone_Comb

Capped Drone Comb -Lighter Comb

Again this can be a typical comb you may see in the brood nest area, except this is capped drone comb which can be mistaken for capped worker brood (see images above). Capped drone comb protrudes out more than the worker brood. Drone comb looks more like an eraser at the end of a pencil. Again this comb had a band of capped honey at the top and the darker cells are capped honey.

Honeycomb_New_Capped_Drone_Comb_CloseUp

Capped Drone Comb with Capped Honey Comb - CloseUp

This is a challenging identification but the slightly darker cells are capped honey and the remaining capped cells are capped drone comb.

Honeycomb_New_Capped_Drones_Emerged

Capped Drone Comb -Lighter Comb

This is the same comb at a side angle as the above 2 pictures. There are a few empty cells where the drones emerged.

Honeycomb_Capped_Worker_Brood_Lighter_Heater_Bees

Capped Worker Brood Comb with Heater Bee cells (open cells)

Another image of capped worker brood with some empty cells among the capped brood which are kept intentionally open by the laying queen so that heater bees can go into those empty cells and warm the adjacent larvae if necessary. The brood nest needs to be at a consistent temperature and the heater bees help regulate this temperature.

Honeycomb_Brood_Comb_Heater_Bee_Cells

Capped Worker Brood Comb with Heater Bee cells -CloseUp

A closeup of the image above. Some of the empty cells have nectar in them. (the shiny looking cells). The there are some empty cells where heater bees can do their job of regulating the brood nest temperature.

Larvae_Capped_brood_new_comb

Open Larvae Cells and Capped Worker Brood Comb

Larvae_Capped_brood_new_comb_closeup

Open Larvae Cells and Capped Worker Brood Comb -CloseUp

queen-cells on the edge of the comb
Queen cells

Queen cells are normally found on the edge of the comb in top bar hives. They are described as looking look like a small peanut shape.

emergency-queen-cells

Emergency Queen Cells

Emergency queen cells are found in the middle of the comb, as the bees have taken a 1-3 days old worker bee egg (before it is a larvae) and built wax up around it to form a queen cell that they will then continue to feed royal jelly to make a queen.

emergency queen cells pulled form 1-3 day old eggs

Emergency Queen Cells

emergency-queen-cells on darker comb

Emergency Queen Cells

Emergency Queen cells in the middle of the comb drawn out from a 1-3 day old worker
egg before it is a larvae

Capped drone comb darker

Capped Drone Cells

Capped_brood_comb_darker_with_bees

Capped Worker Brood Cells -Darker

 Capped_brood_comb_darker_with_bees

Capped Worker Brood Cells in darker comb. At the top of the comb is capped honey cells

Capped_brood_comb_darker_with_bees

Capped Worker Brood Cells -Darker

Capped-brood-comb-darker-bees

Capped Worker Brood Cells -Darker